Thursday, 3 January 2013

The Raj and the Rape Laws

Just been reading an article in the Wall Street Journal India blog by Rupa Subramanya, an Indian female journalist who thinks that India's archaic rape laws are a hangover from the British colonial era.

I'm prepared to grant her the argument that the British set up the legal system in India. But funnily enough, a lot of those same archaic British laws have since been overturned or modernised in India.

However, the rape laws haven't been changed that much. Or rather, the same social attitudes are persisting in India which make it almost impossible for a woman to report a rape, have it taken seriously by police, have evidence taken, get an arrest, get a court date, get a trial, and get a conviction. There's no point making penalties for rape harsher if a woman can't even get in the door of a police station to report the crime in the first place.

Subramanya says "It’s a cruel irony that while Britain, along with most western countries, have modernized their antiquated laws on rape, Indians are still shackled by it well into the 21st century."

No, it's not a cruel irony. It's what happens when you have a social system that still operates on caste, buys and sells women in marriage, allows men to murder their wives and go largely unpunished, and selectively aborts female foetuses.

Unless Rupa Subramanya and others like her are prepared to start talking about these issues in more detail and more often, the problems with proving rape will remain.

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